Yale University’s School of Management has achieved a new record for alumni financial support of the school with a 51.5% participation rate in its annual Alumni Fund in the fiscal year ending June 30 of this year. It is the highest level of support the school has received and surpasses the giving rates of Yale College, Yale Graduate School, and all other Yale professional schools.
The Yale rate, up from 45.2% a year earlier, represents slightly more than $3 million in gifts, an increase of $961,079 from last year and more than double the total only four years ago. Yale said the financial support was critical in the school’s push to finish the fiscal year in the black for the seventh straight year.
Among the world’s leading business schools, Yale trails only Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business at having the highest participation rate. Tuck’s giving rate in this past fiscal year reached just over 70% for the fifth year in a row. Tuck raised a record $6.4 million this year, surpassing 2014’s $6.35 million, 2013’s $6.3 million, and 2012’s $5.7 million.
Annual alumni giving rates are a fairly good proxy for the value of a business school’s alumni network. High rates typically suggest that a school’s alumni base is engaged with its alma mater and more supportive of both the institution, current students and recent graduates. The Tuck and Yale SOM numbers particularly stand out because the average rate of giving at the top ten business schools hovers around 20% to 25%.
GIVING RATES AT OTHER TOP BUSINESS SCHOOLS VARY
Most schools have yet to announced their participation rates for fiscal 2015, but at Columbia Business School last year the rate was 16%, while at MIT Sloan and Chicago Booth it was 19%. Wharton was at 20%, while Northwestern’s Kellogg School was in the low 20s. Harvard Business School is at 25%, while Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has a giving rate of about 40%.
Yale, with a comparatively young MBA program and a small alumni solicitation base of just 6,708 graduates, is at a disadvantage when it comes to the total amount of alumni gifts. “We’re doing okay given that we are a young school with a small alumni base,” says Edward Snyder, dean of Yale SOM, where the median alumni age is only 44. “All these factors are going to affect us: alumni size, loyalty, median age. There is a presumption if you have more global alumni that makes it harder, too.”
Yet, this year Yale found that international alumni tended to give average gifts that were nearly double that of the domestic alums. “That is one of the things that I would say we are proud of this year,” says Joel Getz, senior associate dean of development and alumni relations. “About 17% of our alumni are international and we had a 41% participation from our international alumni with an average gift size almost double that of the U.S.”
RECORD GIVING RATE ATTRIBUTED TO ‘ELBOW GREASE AND FOCUS’
In Mexico, the participation rate hit 55%, up from 20% last year and just 4% in 2013. This year’s average gift from alumni in Mexico was greater than the total raised two years ago. In Hong Kong, where SOM has 90 alums, the rate was 56%. In China, where SOM has 123 alums, the rate was 51%. And in India, it hit 52%. “Our alumni in Asia have been generous and incredibly involved in the school and we’ve done a lot to involve them,” notes Getz. In Shanghai this past year, for example, SOM held an alumni invite at which Fudan University, a partner in the global network of business schools formed by Yale, invited 25 of its own alumni. “The global network has also excited people,” adds Getz. “It’s everything a little more local for them.”
Getz attributes the record rate of giving to “pure elbow grease and focus.” But the school clearly has momentum going for it, from a new, ultra-modern campus home to its new strategy focused on global business and tighter integration with the university. Rankings for the school have significantly improved and applications are on the rise, increasing more than 25% in the 2014-2015 admissions season, according to Snyder.
Annual alumni fund raising is especially important because the money flows directly to a school’s bottom line and is unrestricted. “It really is money that can be spent to innovate, and we are a school that is growing and trying lots of new things,” says Getz.